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Oxe cf the most charming features of a fairy tale is
> the vagueness of the date of its events and characters.
There is a magic about the phrase " Once upon ;i
time," investing subsequent ogres, genii, fairies, flying
t chariots, moralising mice, and booted cats, with a de-
S lightful harmony and probability. For this reason I
', Vj have always considered the reign of Haroun Alraschid,
gorgeous and romantic as it is, infinitely less interest-
ing than that of the young king of the Black Isles,
whose royal body was half of flesh, half of marble ;
and not to be compared for a moment with the his-
tories of those other misty potentates Prince Camar-
alzani;ni ,-nid King Beder ; while the glory of Pippin

\ Oli. I. A


faded from my infant mind, like the unsubstantial
pageant of a vision, the moment he was discovered to
have been an authentic monarch of France.

This early predilection for what may be called the
No-man's-Land, or Tom Tidler's ground, of chron-
ology, has caused me to regard those authors who
commence their narratives with such phrases as " to-
ward s the close of the last century," or "about the
middle of George the Second's reign," as acting on a
mistaken principle. It is not only unnecessary, but
is also impolitic, as wilfully depriving the production
of what might have been its solitary charm. It is as
if a rejuvenated spinster were voluntarily to pull off'
her wig, spit out her false teeth, walk out of her
crinoline, and, standing before the world, bald, tooth-
less, and shameless, proclaim herself fifty-five.

Once upon a time, then, (to guard against this
error), there was assembled in a room at the Heronry,
the residence of Lady Lee, a goodly company — goodly,
not so much in point of numbers as in personal ap-
pearance. Three ladies were there, all young, and
none of them plain.

Lady Lee was a young widow, the handsomest since
Dido. Her face was pale and oval, her eyes magnifi-
cent, but somewhat languid. Her hair formed a splen-
did framework to her face, being of the richest and
darkest chestnut, scattered with ruddy, golden gleams,


dancing on its innumerable ripples. It formed a
sort of natural diadem, but was now, unfortunately,
hidden by a close crimped widow's cap.

Orelia Payne was a tall dark beauty, with a nose
strongly arched, a curved and somewhat severe mouth,
a cleft chin, and straight dark eyebrows surmounting
black sparkling eyes.

Rosa Young was a plump fair little thing, with a
face of a quaint and somewhat comic cast. Her nose
turned up slightly, and was obsequiously followed by
her upper lip, thus displaying the least glimpse in the
world of very white teeth. Her complexion was very
fresh, and would, perhaps, have been too ruddy, if the
red had not been of such a delicious colour that you
decided, at a glance, it was impossible to have too
much of such a good thing ; besides, if your eye wanted
relief, there was the white of her neck or the blue of
her eyes to turn to. Her hair was carried off above
her ears and dressed plain, or at least intended to be
so ; but stray tresses were perpetually breaking out of
bounds, and wandering in libertine curls about her
cheeks, ears, and neck, requiring to be caught and
pinned up in a supplementary fashion, till the number
of these truants in (1 to such an extent that the

whole structure had tube remodelled. Only two little
curls, like those on a drake's tail, were authorised to
appear, one on each cheek, near the ears.


Orelia was standing with palette and brush be-
fore an easel. She had already chalked on the can-
vass the proportions of Lady Lee's face and figure.
Her ladyship sat at a little distance, and by her
side stood her little son, Julius Lee, about four years

" I am puzzled as to what characters to draw you
in," said Orelia. " Venus and Cupid — there's that
plaguy Rubens and Titian have used up the myth-
ology; then, for a Scriptural subject, Hagar and
Ishmael wouldn't suit you — you are too English, and
Juley's too fair."

'• Why can't you paint them in their own char-
acters ? " said Rosa. " They are not such bad char-
acters, are they ? "

'•' It's so flat and prosaic," returned Orelia, "to paint
things just as they are. No ; we'll have something-
classical. What do you think of Virgilia and the
young Coriolanus ? "

" Ha, ha ! " laughed Rosa. " Virgilia in a widow's
cap ! Why, Coriolanus was all alive, wasn't he ? We
must take it off," said Rosa, stealing behind Lady Lee
and loosening the strings, " and I wish you'd never
put it on again."

" Yes ; pull it off," said Orelia. " A horrid thing
it is. She would look four years younger without it —
yes, five. It gives her a respectable look that's quite


frightful. A widow's cap," continued the grand
Orelia, sententiously, " is a species of suttee."

Lady Lee, after an unsuccessful attempt to .catch
the cap with both hands as it was being plucked off.

glanced at it with a sigh.


: Poor Sir Joseph ! " she said.

" Oh, you fright ! " shrieked Rosa, who, having put
the cap on her own head, had got on a chair to look
at herself in a mirror over the mantelpiece. "
you ugly little thing ! " holding up both her harjds at
her own reflection. " I'll die a maid," continued Rosa,
descending from the chair ; " for I never could live a
widow — at least, not with this thing on my head."

" I'd rather have ' sacred to the memory ' printed
on my forehead in capital letters," said Orelia.

"I'd rather be married again in the first week of my
widowhood than wear it," said Rosa, positively.

" Madcap versus mobcap," said her ladyship, smil-
ing at Rosa. " Come, give it me."

" Never ! " cried Rosa, who, having hung the cap
on a chandelier, was now performing a sort of Indian
scalp-dance round it. " She's got a dozen of 'em in a
box up-stairs, Orelia, but we'll burn 'em all."'

"I believe I should be more comfortable without
it, 1 ' said Lady Lee, smoothing her hair ; "but what
would the world say?"

" I thought you didn't care a pin what the world


said," Rosa replied. "Aren't you always boasting of
your independence?"

" True," said her ladyship ; " I don't know why I
should care. Well, I'll think about leaving off the

" And you had better think of leaving off some other
things at the same time," said Rosa. " For instance,
you might leave off shutting yourself up in this house,
like an old hermit with a beard and a hair shirt ; and
you might leave off treating young men so coldly, who
want to love you, and to come and visit you — that is,
you may do so when Orelia and I are not here, for
we don't want them ; and we're all very happy at pre-
sent, aren't we, Reley ? and it's only for your good I'm

" You ought to mix in society, and to travel, and
see the world," said Orelia. " heavens ! if I were
as rich as you " (" She's as rich as a Jew," muttered
Rosa), " I'd see everything that was grand and excel-
lent in nature and art. I'd go," said Orelia, flourish-
ing her portcrayon, " to all the great cities of Europe ;
I'd make studies in the A r atican and the Pitti Palace
— I'd sit on the Bridge of Sighs and read ( Childe
Harold' — I'd go to Constantinople and fall in love
with a Giaour — I'd see Palestine — I'd cross the Desert
on a dromedary — I'd visit the bright East and the far
West — and, when these were exhausted, I'd come back


to the Heronry again, to sit on the daisies and think of
all I had seen."

" Dear me," said Lady Lee, " you remind me, my
dear, of fancies of my own that I used to have before
I was married. You remember, Orelia, how romantic
I was in my maiden days. I used to sit in the porch
of that old parsonage reading a novel or a play, and
every now. and then dropping the book on my lap,
while I would follow out a romance of my own, con-
jured up by some passage that struck me — visions
of charming friendships, where I, a female Damon,
underwent unheard-of sacrifices for a Pythias of my
own sex — of love, too, where I was wooed by an in-
finity of lovers, all made after the same perfect pattern,
until these ended in Sir Joseph Lee."

" Sir Joseph wasn't romantic, was he ? " asked Rosa.
" At least, I should think not, judging from his pic-
ture in the library."

" He was better than romantic, Rosa," said Lady
Lee, gravely ; " he had a kind heart. But no — you
axe right, my dear ; he was not romantic. Ah,
heavens! to think of the difference between the
ideal and the real ! Nol but that Sir Joseph was
an excellent and kind man, but it was very hard to
learn to look upon him as a lover."

" How did you manage it?" asked Orelia.

"To say the truth, my dear," said her Ladyship,


" I did not surrender my cherished visions either
easily or suddenly. But you, Orelia, know what
were the unfortunate circumstances of my family at
that time, though you can scarcely imagine the full
extent of our trials ; however, a fond father, suffering
at once from disease and debt, the entreaties of rela-
tives, and the promptings of gratitude (for Sir Joseph
had assisted my father most generously), — these mo-
tives, joined to a due sense of Sir Joseph's good and
liberal nature, will perhaps account sufficiently for
my marriage."

Tears of pity came into Rosa's eyes — she was a
very sympathetic little thing. She went to seat her-
self on the sofa by Lady Lee, and squeezed her hand.

" But, now/' said Rosa presently — " now that
youVe been free to follow your own fancies these
three years, why don't you do so ? "

Lady Lee laughed. " I have not yet met with
my ideal hero," she said ; " and if I did, I really domt
think I should admire him. My taste for romance is
dreadfully impaired. A Byronic hero at my feet
would excite ridicule rather than sympathy. And
so, seeing that love without romance is a very hum-
drum affair, and that I have lost my capacity for
seeing things in ' the light that never was on sea or
shore/ the thought of love or matrimony never enters
my head."


" If I were a man," said Orelia, " I'd make you
love me. I'd do something chivalrous that should
compel your admiration in spite of yourself; and
then, after dragging you at my chariot-wheels for a
while, till you were completely subdued, I'd run away
with you."

" And if I were a man," said Rosa, " I'd beg and
entreat you to love me. I'd follow you about, telling
you how beautiful, how clever you were (for you are,
and you know it), and how all your beauty and
cleverness is running to waste from mere don't-care-
ishness ; and how, by loving me, they would both of
them suddenly bloom and brighten, till they were
as bright as — as bright as anything," said Rosa, not
rinding any more brilliant or exact simile after her
pause ; " and I'd never leave telling you, and begging
you, till you yielded, half from pity for me, half from
consideration to yourself."

Lady Lee smiled, and called her a foolish little
thing, and for that time the conversation dropped ;
but it was renewed again that night by Orelia and
Rosa. They slept, by their own desire, in the same
room. Orelia, who used rather to tyrannise over her
companion in this dormitory, inhabited a large square
f< .ii i -poster, with a heavy carved tester, and curtains
which she would let down all round her at night, and
become invisible as the man in a Punch's show;


while Rosa occupied a little French bed that fitted
into an alcove at the end of the room, and was cover-
ed by a chintz curtain hanging from a pole that stuck
out of the wall, in which nest she would chirp herself
to sleep like any wren.

Rosa had been delivering some sentiments respect-
ing Lady Lee similar to those in her last speech, just

" Bless me!" cried Orelia, " and how did you get
so learned in matters of the heart, you pert absur-
dity ? Has anybody been teaching you ? Just let
me catch you having a lover without letting me

"No, no," said Rosa, blushing in the dark like her
namesake of Lancaster ; " I haven't got one, and I
don't want one. I couldn't be more brilliant than I

" Oh, quite impossible ! " quoth the sarcastic Orelia.

" I don't mean that I am particularly bright, but
that a lover wouldn't make me any brighter. But
there's Lady Lee withering away like — like any-
thing," said Rosa, recurring to her favourite simile
of all-work, " and all for want of watering. She
don't care much about anything. She's the best-
natured dear creature in the world when her good
nature's woke up ; but it goes to sleep again in a
minute. So does her cleverness, which just keeps


awake long; enough to show us what it could do if it
wasn't such a sluggard. It's my belief she could
write a beautiful novel or poem whenever she chose
— just see what letters and charades and songs she
writes — but she don't choose. She could have any
clever man at her feet if she chose, but she don't
choose. And she'll go on wasting her herself," said
Rosa, "till she's a stupid old dowager, and then no-
body will care about her."

" Don't you know she can't marry, except under
conditions ? " said Orelia. "Just listen, and as I'm
not particularly sleepy, 111 tell you about it."

" Do," said Rosa, throwing back the curtain over
the head of her bed for the convenience of hearing-

" You must know, then," said Orelia, " that the
late Sir Joseph, though very fond of his wife, was
very much ruled by his uncle, Colonel Bagot Lee,
who is expected here in a day or two. Sir Joseph
was, I believe, a good sort of weak man, and easily
ruled, and Colonel Lee is a knowing, and, as I've
heard, somewhat overbearing man of the world. He
was a great oracle with Sir Joseph on all points, and
had some hand, I fancy, in the concoction of his will,
by which Lady Lee is to have a handsome income so
long as she remains unmarried, or, afterwards, if — if,
mind you — she marries with Colonel Lee's consent


If she marries without it, she forfeits most of her
income, part of which goes to Julius, part to Bagot,
who also, in that case, becomes guardian to the

" Dear me ! " said Rosa, " how stupid of Sir
Joseph ! What did he do that for ? "

" Partly, I believe, because of the superlative idea
he entertained of Bagot's judgment and discretion,
which he thought might be useful to such a young
widow, for she was onty twenty when he died —
partly, perhaps, from a sort of posthumous jealousy
of his successor."

"A wretch!" cried Rosa; "I always suspected
him of being a stupid useless sort of creature, and
now I positively hate him."

"So do I," said Orelia, yawning. "But I'm
getting sleepy now. By the by," she resumed, after
a pause, duriDg which Rosa was pondering what she
had just heard, " you're quite sure nobody's been
making love to you ? "

" Oh, quite ! " said Rosa, hastily.

" And — you don't know — you don't know of any-
body you like better than the rest V said Orelia,

" Nobody, upon my word," said Rosa. But I don't
think Orelia heard the reply, having just dropped off
into a slumber.


And here we will take the opportunity to add a
few general particulars to Orelia's information.

Lady Lee had been, when Hester Broome, a poor
clergyman's daughter, full, as she described herself, of
feeling, of sentiment, of romance, and of bright hopes
for the future ; but these did not make up her cha-
racter, for her dreams were dreamt amidst the reali-
ties of household occupations, and the acquisition of
various accomplishments, and much solid information.
Unfortunately for Hester, she had a dash of genius in
her composition — she was not merely imaginative,
but original and spirited in her imaginations. A
talent for summoning up charming reveries of angels
with wings, lovers with beautiful black whiskers, and
life all sunshine and no clouds, is very abundant in
boarding-schools, watering-places, and elsewhere, end-
ing, sometimes consistently, in Gretna Green and the
divorce courts ; sometimes inconsistently, in corpulent
content with humdrum connubial ity. But Hester's
visions were the results of her own fancy, guided only
by her own tastes, and it was proportionably hard to
abandon them.

Sir Joseph Lee was a baronet of good property —

ii'H/il-natured, as she said, but also, as she did not

say, though she must often have thought it, a veiy

k man. He was so exceedingly inane, that when,

dining his courtship, he left off spectacles, and took


to an eye-glass, it was positively a new feature in his
character, and, conjoined with his abandonment of a
white hat and gaiters, hitherto his constant wear,
produced such a change, that you would hardly have
known him for the same man. His family seat, his
property, his baronetcy, had been to him what office
was to the late Whig ministry — giving him, as their
occupant, a casual identity and reputation.

Bagot Lee, his uncle, formerly a lieutenant-colonel
in the Guards, was about eight-and-forty ; very know-
ing, very dissipated, and very extravagant. He had
impressed his nephew with a wonderful respect for
him. Sir Joseph saw him plunging familiarly into
horse-racing, chicken-hazard, acquaintance with opera-
dancers, and other vortices, floating and revelling there
as if he enjoyed it, while the baronet shivered, and
feebly shouted on the brink. He saw him, when he
came down into the country, treat the magnates of the
county with a coolness which he tried in vain to imi-
tate, and to which they seemed obliged to submit.
He had seen him whisper before the race to the jockey
who rode the winner of the Derby. He had seen him
terrify a steward of whom Sir Joseph stood in great
awe, and cause him to prove himself a cheat.

In fact, Sir Joseph's estimate of Bagot's capacity
was formed on a principle that half the world uncon-
sciously adopt. Seeing Bagot's superiority in matters


of which he (the baronet) was capable of judging, he
gave him credit for the same superiority in other
matters of which he was not capable of judging. How
could a man who could make such a capital betting-
book — who was so skilful a billiard-player — be other-
wise than a safe guide in the affairs of life — be sur-
passed as an adviser on all difficult points ? Bagot's
sharpness seemed to Sir Joseph to include all excel-
lence whatsoever. He would not have been at all
surprised (though many other people might) had Bagot
showed himself a great general, a great author, or a
great statesman, nor would his respect for him have
been thereby at all increased. And pray, sir, do you
never judge of your acquaintances in this way ? Nay,
more — do you never carry the principle farther, and
conclude that all those, with whose reported merits
you cannot sympathise, must necessarily be impostors ?
Ah, heavens ! — how often does one see, and hear of,
genius clipped and pared and shorn down to the mental
standard of some Procrustes with an inch of intellect —
some pert or solemn owl, who thanks God for his igno-
rance, and, as the most hard-hitting of doctors said,
; ' has a great deal to be thankful for."

About a year after his marriage, Sir Joseph found
himself dying of a consumption. Of course, he could
not depart comfortably from the world, nor make his
final arnnigements, without the assistance of Bagot.


"Bagot," said the sick man, "I'm off. I shan't
last long. I've done what I thought you would like
about the — the document, you know, with regard to
Lady Lee and the hoy ; take care of him — take care
of both of 'em, Bagot ; I've put you down for
ten thousand."

" You were always a good fellow, Joe," said Bagot,
" and if you were really going to give us the slip, I
should be confoundedly grieved. I should, by gad,"
(which was true enough, for the baronet was a com-
fortable annuity to him.) " But I hope to see you at
Ascot yet."

" No," said Sir Joseph, " no more Ascot for me.
They've as good as told me it's all up with me. The
Rector's been over here praying with me. Do you
think it's any good, Bagot ?"

Bagot was rather puzzled at being consulted as a
spiritual adviser. " Why," said he, " putting the case,
you see, that a fellow was really going off the hooks
— not that I believe it, you know, for you're looking
twice the man you did yesterday — but just suppos-
ing it, for the sake of argument, the thing might
be decent and comfortable. If I found myself the
easier for it, of course I'd do it."

" Hester brought him," said Sir Joseph. " Poor
Hester ! I've been very fond of that girl, Bagot —
fonder than I ever was of anything, I think. She


was too good for me ; but I think she liked me, too.
Nobody seems so sorry about me as she does."

"Have you put any restriction," said Bagot, "on her
marrying again ? I mean in case of anything happen-
ing, you know ? "

" No," said Sir Joseph ; " I never thought about
it. I have left her the income and the use of the
house unconditionally."

"Ah," said Bagot, musingly, "she's young — devilish
young — and women take strange fancies sometimes.
There will be no end of fellows after her. I shouldn't
like, Joe, my boy, to see her making a fool of herself

with some infernal nincompoop, after your in case

of anything happening, you know."

"Do you think it's likely?" said Sir Joseph,

eagerly. " Do you know of anybody that? Bagot !

if I thought that, I'd—"

" No, no," replied Bagot ; " I don't know anything
of the sort. 2" was merely talking of what might be.
It would be deuced painful to me, you know ; and its
a sort of thing I might easily stop, if I was authorised;
if not, of course I shouldn't meddle."

s idea was, that, in the event of his nephew's
melancholy anticipations being fulfilled, the young
widow's next choice might possibly fall on one very
unlike Sir Joseph, it might fall on a man totally

VOL. I. If


averse to Bagot's pursuits — nay, even to his society; and
thus (the Colonel reflected) that pleasant retreat, the
Heronry, might be closed to him altogether, or, at any
rate, rendered a much less eligible abode ; and these
contingencies he now exerted himself to guard against.

Sir Joseph's was a mind in which, when an idea
did enter, it got plenty of elbow-room, and was in no
danger of being jostled by other ideas. All that
night he beheld nincompoop successors ruling at the
Heronry, and effacing his image from the memory
of Lady Lee. The next morning he again spoke to
Bagot on the subject.

" I've been considering what you said," Sir Joseph
began. " But don't you think 'twould be hard to tie
her down in any way ? — she's been a good wife to me.
Wouldn't it be fair to let her please herself next time?
Perhaps she didn't last time, when she married me.
I've sometimes thought so."

" Do as you like," said Bagot ; " I merely advised
what would be best, in my opinion, for the interest of
all parties. "Lis no more than other husbands — fond
husbands, too, Joe — constantly do ; and it's natural,
too. I can only say (as a bachelor), it seems to me
that the thought of my wife talking over my errors,
in confidence with another fellow who mightn't un-
derstand me the least — ripping up my peccadilloes —
revealing little nonsensical connubial secrets that


had no great harm in 'em, perhaps, though the idea
of anybody else knowing 'em makes a fellow feel
deucedly foolish — like having your letters read to
the court in a breach-of-promise case — by gad, Joe,
I can only say, the thought of it would keep me walk-
ing till the day of judgment."

" Yes, true — there's a good deal in that," said Sir
Joseph. " It would make me feel more comfortable

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